Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Bromeliad Trilogy, by Terry Pratchett

This week I've decided to review Sir Terry Pratchett's Bromeliad Trilogy, which is actually an anthology of three books titled Truckers, Diggers, and Wings. This is not a Discworld novel and is actually set in our own universe, but it still comes with the classic Pratchett wit and insight. I was overall pretty satisfied with this book, as I usually am with Pratchett's writing, however I felt like this book could have used some more time to develop. Definitely worth your time to read, and like the other Pratchett young-adult novels I've read it's good for the whole family because it asks some really tough questions that even adults can have trouble with.

In my opinion Bromeliad really isn't three books in a series, it's instead one large book divided into three segments, and if you're going to read this I'd recommend getting the anthology version where all three are bound in one volume because you feel how the whole story is connected together. This is especially true in the case of Diggers and Wings where Diggers tells the beginning and one half of the middle of a story while Wings tells the other half of the middle and then the end. If you read these as separate novels, and especially if you space time between reading them, then there's a good chance that you'll lose track of part of the plot, so I'd definitely recommend taking all of it at one go. And, as with a lot of Pratchett's works, the reading flows rather easily so I think even younger kids would be able to tackle the whole thing.

My main issue with this book is that the pacing feels terribly rushed and I felt like there wasn't a lot of time for ideas to develop. Just to provide an example, within the first two chapter's you're introduced to the fact that nomes, humanoid creatures approximately four inches tall, exist and live on the edges of human society. You're also introduced to the fact that an entire civilization of nomes lives within a department store and thinks that the store comprises the entirety of the known universe. Finally it's revealed that the nomes actually crash landed on our planet fifteen thousand years ago and are aliens from outer space. Again, all of this is within the first two chapters. To establish all of that an author might take half a book, but you're barely into the Bromeliad and all of that gets unloaded on you. And the speed doesn't diminish from there; although the driving plot is the desire of the nomes to "Go home and be safe" , events proceed at an almost breakneck pace.

Indeed, Bromeliad only clocks in at five hundred pages and is still feels on the light side for all the issues that it touches upon. If Pratchett had added another one or two hundred pages of development I think this book would be just about the right length. I think that there might be a good reason for this book feeling rather fast, because nomes live at a much faster pace than we do, although it seems a normal length of time for them by comparison. Perhaps, then, since we are humans reading about nomes the fast pace is to further emphasize the disconnect between our two species. However, as Bromeliad stands it's still an excellent piece of literature and reveals a lot about the nomish (and even human!) condition.

I think the biggest thing about this novel, and I feel like this holds true for all of Pratchett's young adult novels, is that it doesn't talk down to kids or feed them something too simple. Yes there are plenty of works with fairly simple storylines that enjoy great popularity. Pretty much any story that follows the monomyth is going to have familiar archetypes and stick to a semi-familiar pattern, and there are a lot of good examples to that. However, that isn't the only story to be told and sometimes you have to talk about things more complex, such as when there's no bad guys, just people who don't know the consequences of their actions, like in the Bromeliad. Plus, this novel tackles tough issues such as theology and our place in the universe and it doesn't really give any answers, which I think was a good choice on Pratchett's part. When you get right down to it with matters like theology or the universe there's a lot we still don't know and probably can't know and the important thing is to keep asking questions and never get stuck believing things are the way they are because someone else told you. Philosophically I think the book raises more questions than it answers and it's a very good book to challenge a lot of assumptions people might have, especially young people.

Overall a really good book that I enjoyed in spite of its fast pace and potential for more development. Another good read for the family.

- Kalpar

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